LONDON, Oct. 25 (JTA) — The leaflets made their message perfectly clear: “The final hour will not come until the Muslims kill the Jews.”
The last three words were printed in larger type than the rest of the sentence, so from a distance, it looked as if the pamphlets simply read: “Kill the Jews.”
Placed on car windshields and plastered to walls, the pamphlets appeared in London’s fervently Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Stamford Hill in October 2000, just after the beginning of the Palestinian uprising.
Police caught five men in the act of distributing the leaflets early one Sunday morning, but British officials recommended that no legal action be taken against them.
Britain’s Jewish leaders are furious.
“This is a perfect example of the lack of political will to prosecute for incitement,” said a spokesman for the Community Security Trust, an organization dedicated to protecting the Jewish community. The political authorities are “backing away from the problem.”
The spokesman, who asked not to be named, added that the authorities are more reluctant to prosecute Muslims than far-right white extremists.
“There is a history of failing to get to grips with incitement on the part of the Muslim community,” he said.
The Board of Deputies, the umbrella organization that represents most British Jews, is particularly upset that word of the prosecutions being dropped came just as the government proposed widening anti-incitement legislation.
Incitement to racial hatred already is illegal, and the government has proposed banning incitement to religious hatred as well. Under British law, Jews are considered a “race.”
The Board and the Trust have both charged that existing hate crimes legislation is adequate to protect Jews, but that the laws are not used effectively.
In a stinging letter to Britain’s attorney general, the board director general, Neville Nagler, wrote, “We would be interested to learn how the proposed new law would make a difference when under existing laws an overt appeal to kill members of a racial minority can be carried out with impunity.”
There were 41 prosecutions for incitement between 1990 and 1997, or less than six per year.
Nagler compared the case of the five men arrested for distributing the leaflets to that of two others being prosecuted for passing out similar leaflets several days before.
“The Jewish community is extremely concerned at the failure to take action against the five men who were arrested for distributing identical material,” Nagler wrote to the attorney general. “We would request an explanation,” he said.
The five men who were arrested early on Oct. 8, 2000, on “suspicion of distributing anti-Semitic literature” — they were caught with the leaflets in their car, a police spokesman said — were released on bail and told to appear in court on Nov. 3, 2000.
They never appeared, and police did not pursue the matter.
The Crown Prosecution Service, the body that advises police whether there is enough evidence to prosecute, recommended in April against legal action.
The Service does not publicize its decisions, however, so the issue languished until a reporter for the London-based Jewish Chronicle remembered the case and made some inquiries.
“There was not enough evidence to go forward with prosecution,” the Service told JTA.
A police spokesman said that because the leaflets were distributed in a predominantly Jewish area and would be seen mostly by Jews, the Service ruled that the leaflets were unlikely to stir up racial hatred against Jews.
The spokesman added that the police had wanted to prosecute the men.
The Jewish community learned of the decision last week through a report in the Jewish Chronicle. Nagler wrote to the attorney general within days.
The Trust is particularly concerned because the leaflets were apparently produced by Al Muhajiroun, an extremist Muslim group with strong support in Britain.
Its Web site has promoted Holocaust denial, and its leader, Sheik Omar Bakri Muhammad, is under suspicion of incitement.
British Home Secretary David Blunkett, who is responsible for domestic security issues, told the BBC that Muhammad is being watched closely.
“We monitor carefully everything that he is saying, who he is inciting, and work out carefully at what point it would be productive to act so he is prevented from doing so,” Blunkett said in a radio interview.
The Trust hopes that the authorities are taking the issue seriously, their spokesman said.
“There is a direct correlation between the amount of incitement and violence against Jews,” the spokesman said.